Slash’s Les Paul & Gear Setup

By Editorial Team •  Updated: 03/21/23 •  11 min read
Slash's Les Paul guitars used live and in studio.
Slash with his famous 1987 Gibson Les Paul Standard, aka “Jessica”

Slash, the sensational Guns N’ Roses guitarist, owns a whole lot of guitars.

But let’s get more specific: if you purchased a new guitar every three months for the rest of your life, you still wouldn’t end up with as many as Slash.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the particular guitar model that Slash would return to time and time again: the Gibson Les Paul.

We’re going to examine in detail his exact collection of Les Pauls and see which ones he preferred for which settings. But first, a quick history lesson to allow you to fully appreciate the man, the myth, the legend.

The Roots


Slash’s real name is Saul Hudson (yeah, still an epic name). He was born in London in 1965 but spent his early childhood in Stoke-on-Trent before moving to Los Angeles at the age of six with his mother. His mixed heritage of African-American and English led him to remark that he found it amusing to be both British and Black.

His parents were both very successful: his father was an album cover artist for musicians such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, while his mother was a fashion designer who had clients like Ringo Starr and David Bowie (with whom she actually had an affair for a year and a half).

As a teenager, Saul was known for constantly running around and being too busy to sit down and talk for long periods. The actor Seymour Cassel, who was friends with Saul, aptly dubbed him “Slash”—and the name stuck.


Slash discovered his love for rock music at the age of 14 while listening to Aerosmith’s “Rocks.” He was so taken by the album that he blew off a girl he had been pursuing for months. From then on, rock music became his new love interest, and he pursued it with vigor.

He decided to form a band (unfortunately unsuccessful) with Steven Adler in 1979, and this prompted him to take up an instrument. Adler had designated himself as the guitarist, so Slash decided to learn the bass. After his first lesson, however, he was inspired by his teacher playing “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones and decided to switch to the guitar—and just imagine how much would have been different if he hadn’t!

Slash started taking lessons and practiced guitar for up to 12 hours a day. He was actually a talented BMX rider as well, but eventually decided to focus solely on music. He attended Beverly Hills High School alongside other famous musicians like Lenny Kravitz and Zoro. While there, he formed a band with future Guns N’ Roses members Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin (then collectively known as Hollywood Rose).

Slash's old main guitar was the B.C. Rich Warlock
B.C. Rich Warlock was Slash’s main guitar before switching to the Les Paul.

Slash’s First Les Paul

More importantly for our purposes, Slash was first introduced to the Les Paul via a sunburst Memphis Les Paul copy that he found at a local pawn shop. Though the copy wasn’t of the highest quality and its temperamental nature caused him to put it “through a wall,” his love for the Les Paul (and especially its body style) was born.

In 1988, during a Guns N’ Roses tour, Gibson gifted Slash his first two real Les Paul guitars. One might question the sincere generosity of these gifts, however, as they were both “factory second” Les Paul Standards, which means they had flaws in their construction that made them unsellable to music stores.

Slash’s Studio Les Pauls

Something that really sets Slash apart from the crowd (besides being one of the most talented people to ever touch a guitar, of course) is that arguably his favorite studio guitar is actually a Les Paul replica, built by luthier Kris Derrig.

Now, it’s debatable that this was actually Slash’s personal favorite to play—what is not debatable is that Slash used this guitar for the vast, vast majority of his studio recordings, whether for Guns N’ Roses or for his various other projects.

That being said, the man owns around 400 guitars, and many of them are legitimate Les Pauls. Below is a list of the specific ones he loved most for studio use, as well as the songs he used them for.

The Axes

Slash’s Live Les Pauls

Experienced musicians know that even if you’re playing the same songs, doing so in the studio just feels different than doing so live. Slash understood this, and so even though his preferred studio guitar was the Les Paul replica by Kris Derrig, it was a different story when it came to playing for the crowd.

Slash says, “The main guitar I play live is one of two Les Paul Standards I bought in 1987. This one has always been my main stage guitar. It just sounds good and feels right to me.”

When playing live, technicalities are important, but you can’t ignore instinct. If it feels right, chances are it’s right.

The Axes

More recently (from around 2010 and onwards), Slash prefers to use his signature Les Pauls on stage—these guitars are discussed below.

Slash's one of his two 1987 Gibson Les Paul Standards
Slash playing live with one of his two 1987 Gibson Les Paul Standards

Slash’s Signature Les Pauls

Since 1990, Gibson has created numerous Les Pauls in collaboration with Slash, mostly for the purpose of imitating the specific Les Pauls that have become so famous from having the grand honor of being played by him.

When you step back and think about it, the number of guitars below is pretty astounding. The fact that Gibson has officially collaborated with Slash to make that many guitars is a testament to the lasting legacy Slash has left in the music world.

The Axes

Preferred for Live Shows

Slash rarely uses these guitars for anything other than his solo live performances.

Slash’s Vintage Les Pauls

Ah—now we’ve arrived at the cream of the crop; the cherry on top; the chewy center of the Tootsie Pop (and yeah, I know my rhyme game is top-notch).

The 1959 Les Paul

It’s true that Slash has many favorites. As I mentioned earlier, for studio use he prefers his Kris Derrig Les Paul replica, and for live use, one of his two 1987 Les Pauls. But it’s undeniable that, throughout his entire career, one of Slash’s most highly prized possessions was his first authentic, vintage 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard.

Joe Perry’s Les Paul

If you’re wondering why I said “was” instead of “is,” it’s a long story. That particular ’59 Les Paul was originally owned by Joe Perry of Aerosmith. Slash acquired it through a third-party seller, and though he loved the guitar dearly, it just didn’t feel right for Joe Perry to be deprived of his baby—so Slash did the classy thing and ended up giving it back to him. For more information on this specific guitar and the mythical 1959 Les Paul line in general, check out our article on the topic.

The Replacement

Even though Slash gave that guitar back to its rightful owner, he later acquired another 1959 Les Paul Standard in its place. This guitar is in shockingly perfect condition. It’s a beautiful sunburst, flame top model with hardly a scratch on it. Though Joe Perry’s model was iconic for obvious reasons, the one Slash now owns is in much better condition—I don’t even want to think about the cash burn on that puppy.

The Axes

Now, the amount of vintage guitars owned by Slash varies depending on your definition of the word “vintage.” Slash started playing guitar around 1980, so for our purposes, we’ll consider any guitar manufactured before then to be part of his vintage collection. The list below, then, is a good summary.

Slash's live and studio Les Pauls
1. Joe Perry’s 1959 Les Paul, 2. 1958 “First Standard” Les Paul, 3. 1959 Les Paul Burst, 4. Kris Derrig ’59 Replica

Final Thoughts

If you think about it, the Gibson Les Paul has played a huge part in turning Slash into the living legend he has become. Yet, in the same way, Slash has done much to popularize the Les Paul and further the prestige of Gibson as a guitar company.

It’s undeniable that the Les Paul was Slash’s favorite. Though numerically speaking, his Les Pauls don’t make up the largest piece of his guitar collection, it’s pretty easy to see that they hold the largest piece of his heart.

And that’s the heart of a man who has centered his very life around the mastery of his craft. It’s the heart of the man who said this:

“Guitar is the best form of self-expression I know. Everything else, and I’m just sort of tripping around, trying to figure my way through life.”—Slash

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Slash Les Pauls good?

Gibson’s “Slash” Les Paul line is unique mostly in terms of aesthetics. The guitars themselves are of superb playability, constructed with the same quality and care used for the majority of Gibson’s other Les Pauls. The “Slash” Les Pauls are special in that they are made to imitate the specific Les Paul guitars that Slash has become known for playing.

How many Les Pauls does Slash own?

The exact number of Les Pauls owned by Slash is debatable. However, given what we know about the guitars he regularly talks about, uses, and has used throughout his career, it’s safe to say that he owns at least 25 Les Pauls.

Why does Slash play Les Paul?

Perhaps it’s best to let Slash himself do the talking here:

“I love the weight of it. It felt solid. I liked the way the neck felt. Obviously, I liked the way that it looked and the sound was consistent, so I was definitely looking for that beefy, Humbucker sound.” Enough said.

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